Introducing Central Otago
Central Otago vineyards are the world’s most southerly, enjoying a unique continental New Zealand environment that is both hot and dry in summer, and cool and snowy in winter. Central Otago wineries are located in one of the world’s most scenic wine regions, with wine produced at elevation, in and amongst towering snow-capped mountain ranges, and rivers set in deep gorges.
Central Otago wineries are famed for Pinot Noir which are often spoken about as some of the best in the world. The map of Central Otago wine region shows distinct yet proximate sub-regions of Wanaka, Gibbston, Bannockburn, Alexandria, Bendigo and Cromwell/Lowburn/Pisa Range.
Central Otago wine is made up primarily of Pinot Noir, but its best wineries are also producing Riesling, Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, Sparkling wine, and to a lesser extent Gewurztraminer and Sauvignon Blanc.
Where is Central Otago?
Central Otago is the informal name for the inland part of the Otago region in the South Island of New Zealand. Central Otago fine wines are best accessed via the central hub of Queenstown, with regularly scheduled airline carriers servicing domestic and international flights. When in the region, driving is an ideal way of exploring the wineries.
Central Otago Climate
Central Otago weather is typically hot and sunny in summer and very cold in winter. The growing season is considered long and slow, though ripening and sunshine hours intensify the concentration of Pinot Noir, with power and richness a hallmark.
Unique Characteristics of Central Otago
The extremes in climate impact on the distinct character of wines from Central Otago vineyards, with inky concentration, macerated cherry and berry fruit character, herbs and spice complexity, and often higher alcohol. Wineries working with Chardonnay and aromatic grape varieties like Riesling find bright yet concentrated white wines of high aromatic spectrum, citrusy-mineral laced acidity, and great intensity of flavour.
Wines to try from Central Otago
Central Otago wineries work predominately with Pinot Noir, though many of their fine wines are made from Chardonnay, or produced with both Pinot Noir and Chardonnay to make Sparkling wines. Central Otago wine makes up under 3% of all production in New Zealand. While Pinot Noir is the flagship variety of the Central Otago region, its best wineries also work with aromatic white grape varieties with great success.
Central Otago Pinot Noir has an international reputation for high-class, long-lived wines of great regional character. Fine wines produced from Pinot Noir are typically high in perfume, rich in flavour and higher in alcohol and power than many other Pinot Noir-focused regions, and enjoy tense structure and satiny-plush texture.
Must See Central Otago Wineries
A map of Central Otago will show approximately 2000 hectares of land planted to vineyards. The wineries were led by regional pioneers, Chard Farm, Rippon, Black Ridge and Gibbston Valley, who in the early days of the Central Otago wine regions were considered ‘mad’ for planting and making wine in such an extreme location and climate. Some include:
- The Ribbon Hills
- Akarua Winery
- Felton Road Wines
- Mount Edward
- Terra Sancta
Key Central Otago Wine Event
Clyde Wine and Food Harvest Festival
The festival is Central Otago's biggest celebration of locally produced wines and has grown from originally 5 wineries taking part to now more than 20 wine labels. It is held every year on Easter Sunday just before the major grape harvest. Besides the opportunity to taste many different wines, the festival also includes a local food produce market, live music, art exhibition and children's entertainment.
The future of Central Otago
Central Otago wineries are in a privileged position with their global reputation founded on the strength of fine wines, particularly Pinot Noir. Blessed with incredible scenery, great food and wine culture, and a thrilling wine tourism experience based out of tourist magnet Queenstown, Central Otago vineyards are easy to access and wonderful to visit. This, and increasing quality of grower-producer wines, are enhancing a formidable baseline for excitement with Central Otago wine.
- Central Otago
- Pinot Noir
- Cool Climate